As an entrepreneur, I'm always looking for ways to use my time more efficiently. Several years ago I took a time management course while working on my dissertation in which the primary message was to set a hard stop time every day. This counter intuitive approach was based on the notion that if one knows they have to stop at a particular time, they will work more efficiently up until that time. Most people focus on the start time (I'll start hitting it hard at 8 AM on the dot!) but without a stop time they drag on through the day and into the night; they might end up sitting at their desk for more hours than the guy who stopped at 6 PM but they don't necessarily get as much done.
As a technologist, I find that often I have to apply the set stop time approach on a per project basis before outsourcing a given job. Just this past weekend I was stuck on a problem with a software package my company recently acquired. I was tempted to keep tinkering with the package but after about 8 hours I sought help from a news group and learned that the software package has a poorly documented bug for which a patch existed. I wish I had applied the set stop time approach on this project; e.g., I'll work on this package for X hours after which I'll seek help from a consultant (hopefully X would have been a lot less than 8 hours).
I'm wondering if other entrepreneurs agree with this approach or does it only apply to dissertation disserters. How has this or a similar approach been manifest in your work?
As my boss is fond of saying, "Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging." So, I always set deadlines and do my best to get it done. If I fall a little short, at least I am in a position to assess whether or not I can ship it. Usually, being 95% done is good enough.
I think a lot of the not getting stuff done revolves around making it perfect. Yes, it's important to put out a quality product. Yes, it's important to make it the best it can be but not at the expense of slipping yet another deadline.
Meetings are the worst in terms of a time sync. Chris' point is right on. You always need less time in a meeting than you think. For better meetings, you need an agenda, start on time and finish on time. If you do that enough, you can change behavior so that your meetings start to become more productive.
Here's a discussion on time management and productivity that might shed some light: http://www.brightjourney.com/q/personal-productivity-time-management-motivational-tips-tricks-use To your point, a little different scenario but my simplest example is scheduling and running meetings. They expand to fit the scheduled time. So a meeting that would normally be set as an hour, schedule it for 45 minutes or 30. Schedule 15 minute meetings instead of a half hour. And see what happens. Depending on how many meetings you typically have, this can save a lot of time.
Best example, many years ago I was running marketing for a company and our advertising agency needed time with our CEO. They wanted two or more hours to get everything done. Because of a board meeting he said we/they could only have 45 minutes. We accomplished everything in 45 minutes that they thought they needed 2 hours to achieve...with about five minutes left over. That really made an impression on me.
Outside that, I've started to schedule time in my calendar to work on significant projects with the goal you mention, setting a hard stop and forcing myself to be productive and get it done vs. just oozing out and wasting time.
I look forward to feedback from others.
I think hard stops are the only hope of getting software released on time. My method for ensuring this is a bit insidious: I schedule customer demos of new product features before the features are released. (Yes, I get buy in from the dev team first on the date.)
A healthy dose of expediency focuses the mind, and the team.